By Kaitlyn Mazzilli & Kari O’Briant
We all thought Eddie was sleeping until Kari walked in with her newborn son, Jack. At the sight of the three-month-old baby, Eddie lit up with a bright smile and reached out to gently pat Jack’s head. He was eager to hold Jack, and did so with the help of his daughter Cathy, who beamed at the sight of joy and enthusiasm in her father’s eyes. Eddie and Cathy are regulars at the monthly Hingham Memory Café hosted by South Shore Conservatory. SSC Memory Cafés, one in Hingham and one in Duxbury, provide free arts-based activities led by trained creative arts therapists to support individuals living with memory issues and their caretakers.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are currently 5.7 million individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States alone. They predict this number to rise to 14 million by 2050. Unbelievable! With such staggering rates of loved ones facing Alzheimer’s disease (in addition to dementia, and other related cognitive disorders), we at South Shore Conservatory felt it vital to provide beneficial interventions to improve the quality of life for these populations. We are overjoyed when we see connections being made both cognitively and socially at these cafés.
Beyond what we offer for stimulating activities during these 90-minute sessions, gerontology research suggests that there can be additional therapeutic benefits when individuals with dementia spend time with preschool-aged children. Blending generations provides meaningful opportunities for bonding and mentoring. With our Hingham Memory Café taking place at the same campus and during the same time period as our arts-integrated Preschool/PreK/Kindergarten programs, we have already had two unique privileges of witnessing the power of intergenerational arts-based experiences!
The first intergenerational experience was at November’s café, to celebrate Thanksgiving. Our PreK students joined our café guests for an enjoyable memory café filled with celebratory music and art activities. The café guests helped each child glue feathers on paper turkeys, and we talked about what each person felt grateful for. We all smiled when one little boy announced that he was thankful for “old people,” and everyone laughed when we turned the traditional Hokey Pokey dance into a silly version called the Turkey Pokey.
In December, we brought together multiple generations to sing holiday carols with Creative Arts Therapies Director Eve Montague, and welcomed the return of Kari and her newborn baby, Jack. Watching the two generations enjoying spending meaningful time together touches the hearts of both participants and facilitators. Our joyful singing also caught the attention of our preschool teachers who made a special visit to say hello. These experiences foster a deeper sense of community between our cafés and school. The students who participated in the café are now more eager to greet our memory café guests and the preschool teachers are excited to plan for future collaborations!
This January, SSC celebrated its one year anniversary of hosting SSC Memory Café at the Hingham campus. These cafés are made possible by the generous support of the Middleton Family Foundation. The Harry C. and Mary Elizabeth Grafton Memorial Fund funded a second monthly SSC Memory Café at our Ellison Center for the Arts in Duxbury, which will celebrate its one year anniversary in May. We are grateful for these generous funders and their support in making these events free to all!
The Hingham SSC Memory Café meets the third Thursday of each month from 12:30 – 2:30 pm. The Duxbury SSC Memory Café meets the first Tuesday of each month from 10:30 am – 12:30 pm. Participants are encouraged to attend both of these free cafés each month. To register for these free events, please contact Eve Montague, Director of Creative Arts Therapies, at 781-934-2731, x20, or email@example.com. More information at https://sscmusic.org/memorycafe/.
Kaitlyn Mazzilli and Kari O’Briant are creative arts therapists and facilitators for SSC’s Memory Cafés. A Registered Dance/Movement Therapist and Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Kaitlyn is the Dance/Movement Therapy Program Coordinator, and teaches Adaptive Dance and Drama Classes at SSC. Kari is a Board Certified Music Therapist and Music Therapy Program Coordinator. She is the facilitator for the Hingham Memory Café, and directs SSC Community Voices Too!.